Editor’s Note: A huge thanks to Adam Bridgers, who went through and made these GIF’s for me. Otherwise this article would not have been possible. BIG KUDOS.
There has been a lot of discussion (and rightfully so) about the Wake Forest perimeter defense. On Friday night UNC-Greensboro junior Francis Alonso hit 7/10 three-pointers and put up 31 points against Wake.
The Deacs knew coming into the game that Alonso could shoot the three-ball, as he made 8/10 against Delaware in a game earlier in the year and also shot 44% from behind the arc last year.
Alonso is a good case study in a couple of ways in that Wake knew what he was capable of beforehand, and also had time to gameplan against it, but also not perfect because he is always going to have a few games where he just balls out and makes a ton of threes regardless of the defense.
The combination Alonso possesses as far as utilizing screens, getting open, and a quick release caused nightmares for Wake Forest all night, regardless of who was covering him.
UNC-G head coach Wes Miller was not shy about going to Alonso early and often, as he was responsible for 34% of the possessions in the game (17 shots, 4 turnovers).
Alonso Three No. 1
Alonso started off hitting a three from the top of the perimeter after setting a screen at the key for James Dickey. Brandon Childress covered for Olivier Sarr who recognized the screen late. That is either on Sarr for not hearing Chill call out the screen or Chill for not calling out the screen. Either way, Chill drops back inside to cover Dickey, is late to get out when Sarr is rotating back, and Alonso hits the three over Chill. I don’t think this is a bad closeout by Chill, but shows why a shorter guard can be a problem. The pick and roll defense was obviously a split second late and cost the Deacs.
Alonso Three No. 2
This was a well designed play out of a baseline in-bounds situation that saw Jordy Kuiper set a screen for Alonso. Alonso rolls to his right and shoots in fluid motion. Chill actually does a decent job of staying on him but doesn’t really get a hand in Alonso’s face to contest it. This is just a good play design by UNC-G and sharpshooting by Alonso.
Alonso Three No. 3
I’m not really sure what’s going on here defensively for Wake. Mitchell Wilbekin is on Alonso originally, but after the screen from Kyrin Galloway, Bryant Crawford stops chasing his defender and steps out to deny the ball to Alonso. Unfortunately he kind of halfheartedly does this instead of committing to the denial, and he actually forces Wilbekin out further than he needed to be, and the screen from Kuiper doesn’t allow Wilbekin to catch back up to Alonso. This is bad team defense by Wake, but once again pretty good play design by UNC-G. I would also venture to guess that Thompson should have stepped out to guard Alonso once he saw Kuiper was setting the screen. This is a failure on pretty much all fronts of team defense.
Alonso Three No. 4
Chaundee Brown is playing man-to-man coverage on Alonso on this one. This is a simple double screen down low that allows Alonso to get free running the baseline. Brown doesn’t take the most efficient route and runs into three players, while having to go around another screener. Alonso goes untouched on the baseline and Brown can’t get to him in time. His length actually probably impeded the vision a bit, but he also probably fouled him too by landing on his foot. Freshman mistake by Brown in not taking the best route to trail Alonso.
Alonso Three No. 5
This is probably the only “bad effort” on the makes that Alonso had. Keyshawn Woods is late to recognize that Alonso is going to the perimeter (I’m not really sure what he was paying attention to), and then he doesn’t even try to fight through the Kuiper screen. Alonso simply dribbles once, moves to his left, and knocks down the wide open three. I have no idea if Brown was supposed to guard Alonso on the switch (usually Wake switches, but Keyshawn was in no position to guard Kuiper if he rolls), but this is just pathetic defense overall on a simple pick-and-roll play.
Alonso Three No. 6
Childress drew the assignment on this make and it was just a simple screen and roll again. He can’t get around the pick in time and the ball comes right to Alonso who has a gap on the perimeter. Chill actually recovers ok but once again his height doesn’t allow him to get a hand in the face of Alonso before the shot goes up.
Alonso Three No. 7
The final three of the night brought UNC-G to within three points with just over four minutes remaining. Kuiper set the screen on the perimeter (arguably a moving screen where he steps into Wilbekin’s path), and Wilbekin isn’t close enough to Alonso to avoid it and get anywhere near him. Alonso hits an open three from about two feet behind the three-point line.
Alonso Miss No. 1
Chaundee Brown got the initial start on defending Alonso and forced a miss on the first attempt. This looks pretty similar to most of the ones that we saw above. Brown goes for a deflection in front of the screen before chasing after Alonso. His length and quickness probably caused Alonso to fire a bit quicker than he wanted, but this could have easily gone down as well.
Alonso Miss No. 2
Keyshawn Woods is on Alonso on this miss and quite frankly it is probably the most open look he had all night. Woods can’t get by a (moving?) screen by James Dickey and Alonso floats out to the perfect spot to get away. Sarr also has pretty much zero recognition on what is going on because he is caught ball-watching. Had he recognized the rest of the floor then he could have possibly helped on a switch. This could have easily been another three for Alonso.
Alonso Miss No. 3
This is effectively the final play of the game and Alonso is trying to hit a three to pull the Spartans within one. It’s interestingly enough the only time he pulled up all night on three (which should tell you a lot about the gameplan for Wes Miller and the Spartans to get him the ball). Crawford does a great job denying the initial look and Alonso misfires on the second clutch. Good D by Crawford, somewhat powered by the fact that he probably knew Alonso was going to shoot a three.
First of all, Francis Alonso is a very good shooter and he made Wake Forest pay for lackadaisical perimeter defense throughout the game. There are multiple issues that appear to be team wide problems for the Deacs:
- Late on recognizing where Alonso is going.
- Poor understanding overall of where Alonso probably is going to go (i.e., not posting up inside Keyshawn).
- Not communicating effectively on pick-and-roll defenses.
- Unclear what the gameplan is on defending pick-and-roll defenses. Are we switching, are we hedging, what is the overall strategy?
- When the screen is defended somewhat well the players there do get to Alonzo are too short to impact shot with a hand in the face.
I do want to point out that Mitchell Wilbekin was not the only person guarding Alonso all night, so those folks who have suggested that Coach Manning didn’t try anything else are simply incorrect. Furthermore, Wilbekin was on Alonso towards the end of the game where he did not manage much of anything the final four minutes when the game was on the line.
If we are simply looking at who the on-ball defender was for each three make then it would breakdown the following way:
- Childress (1)
- Childress (2)
- Wilbekin (1)
- Brown (1)
- Woods (1)
- Childress (3)
- Wilbekin (2)
So Childress was the on-ball defender three times, Wilbekin two times, with Brown and Woods on him once a piece. Bryant Crawford was pretty much never on him to the best of my knowledge, which is interesting to me.
I can’t stress enough that most of the threes were not the fault of one player though. The pick-and-roll defenses were (are) inexplicably bad for a Power Five conference team and if the Deacs can’t defend that then what are we doing here?
I also want to point out how these simple plays freed up a lot of space for Alonso. They were well drawn-up, well-executed plays from head coach Wes Miller and his team that freed up a very good sharpshooter in Francis Alonso. Alonso always knew where he was going and was in the right spot at the right time most of the night. In addition to this, his quick release allowed him to take advantage of the split-second delay that Wake had in covering him most of the night.
I would say that Wake could probably run a few of these simple screen plays to free up our shooters as well.
Overall I would say that the 30+ points were a combination of a really good shooter in Alonso, and pretty bad defense by Wake Forest. I believe that only two of the seven were even attempted with a hand in his face, and most of the shots were free looks from Alonso on the run.
It is pretty telling that none of Alonso’s makes came out of spot-up shooting. He ran Wake Forest ragged on screens and made them all off the catch and shoot.
This suggests not just poor lateral foot speed from Wake in losing a man-to-man matchup where a ball-handler is dribbling and shoots, but overall systematic failures with regards to covering pick-and-rolls and simple offenses designed to get a team’s best player open.
These problems have to be remedied starting tonight against Illinois if the Deacs want to have any hope of playing successful basketball moving forward this season.